Thinking Outside the Box

For most of us, conforming to societal norms is part of our daily lives. There is a definite need for structure in families, schools, communities and amongst nations. However, learning how to think outside the box (with caution and respect for societal requirements) is an essential element in personal happiness. Once developed, this skill can reduce depression, improve mood and increase creativity and performance in our personal lives, at work, in our communities and ultimately in our world.

Rene Descartes, Father of Modern philosophy, further developed the concept of “I think therefore I am”. If we were to take this concept and apply positive behavior change to it the phrase then becomes “I think therefore I behave”. And taken one step further …

“I think… therefore I am empowered to act”.

This new phrase has the potential to change your life, your productivity, improve your mood and change the world.

The hidden platform for this concept is that to begin to change our thoughts we must change our worldview. For those of us that believe we are fatefully predisposed to the lives we are living and that our actions are worthless -are limiting themselves and reducing their ability to perform and create a positive impact in their own lives…as well as in the lives of others.

This belief is known as an external locus of control. We become a mere pawn or a “victim” to the world around us- which whittles away at our self esteem and reduces our desire and motivation to play an active role in any capacity. This thought process increases the incidence of depression and reduces creativity. Why bother thinking at all – if we are just along for the ride?

Development of an “internal locus of control” or in other words the belief that we have the ability to affect change in our world- immediately causes a change in our mind and raises self esteem. First, we empower ourselves. I like to say we “take back our power” because in essence we have given it away with the belief that the world is beyond our reach (external locus of control) and that we are merely “along for the ride”.

Second, when we “take back our power” we change. We become active and by being active we have the ability to adopt the concept “I think therefore I am” and ultimately “I think therefore I act”. We literally empower ourselves to ACT upon those things we wish to change, move or improve. We give ourselves permission to be creative. We give ourselves permission to make a difference. We instill in ourselves the concept that our contribution is valuable in some way.

Now apply these two basic principles (Internal locus of control, and self empowerment) to the world we live in. If 20% of the people in the world adopted this type of thinking and changed their behaviors to active participants and let loose the creative genius in their minds what change could we see? The ripple effect would be instantaneous. It would be marvelous.

If you are an educator, a doctor, a leader of nations or simply a parent or an individual… this information could change the world in which your children, grandchildren and indeed all future generations live in. It could create a sense of personal happiness for those who adopt these concepts as well as for those who cannot…or will not make a change.

So consider freeing your mind for a moment, think outside of the box you have created for yourself …and consider making a change. Give yourself permission to “take back your power” and begin by changing your thoughts in your head. Challenge those old beliefs and ask yourself..

“Can I make a difference”?

Even in some small way, a ripple effect can spread out beyond your wildest imagination.

Love.. is the Lifeblood of Mental Health

Have you ever felt like you were just hanging on?

When was the last time you faced a challenge so significant in your life that you were forced to ask for help?  Did you hesitate before you asked for assistance?  

Was the help you needed provided?   

If you are fortunate enough to have a healthy and vast support system with family and friends who provide unconditional love to you -then you most likely received the assistance you needed.  You would have experienced what I like to call the lifeblood of good mental health.

In the mental health field there is a great need for unconditional positive regard to be provided by not only care providers but by all who surround the client in his/her daily life.  Unfortunately, the diagnosis of an illness in mental health is not always received without judgment by one’s community, friends and oftentimes family. Why does a medical illness like diabetes seem more acceptable than depression or PTSD?  Some of this stems from a stigma in our society towards mental illness.

What is a stigma?  According to Webster’s Dictionary a stigma is defined as, “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something”.  

Stigma about mental health can be pervasive.  It is like a cancer of the mind.  Stigma can be silent, stealthy and suck the lifeblood out of those whom we care about. It not only hurts our loved ones, but just as any negative thinking does…it hurts ourselves. There is good news though; thoughts are changing in this matter.  Stigma about mental health is slowly being stamped out….and it should be. 

Many mental illnesses are often very poorly understood and so there are myths and misunderstandings about their causes, their cures and those who are affected by them.  There is much blame.  “Just get over it” is a common phrase that many clients have heard.  “You were fine yesterday, what’s the matter today”? Or, one of the worst comments: “It’s all in your head”.

Consider this; no one operates in a vacuum.    We are all interconnected and therefore just as responsible for the outcomes of the sick as those who have been diagnosed with an illness themselves.  I ask you to think about the stigma in mental health and make a change. 

Consider a golden formula -with love as a primary ingredient:

A golden formula for mental health includes a variety factors such as: a loving and unconditional positive support system, compassion,spirituality, medication compliance, exercise, positive attitude (by client, family, friends and caregivers), education and stable home life.  Regular visits to doctors and management of all illness (medical and psychological) are necessary components.  Good food and comforting words are essential to this formula.

I like to think that those in the healthcare field are motivated by a desire to help their fellow man. In this pursuit the element of love would be a ribbon running through everything they do and be evident in the work they perform.  Likewise with family and friends who have so much to lose should their loved one deteriorate, love would be first and foremost in their support (and in their hearts).

Let’s make it happen.

Love, is truly the lifeblood of good mental health.  

Not only for those who ask for help… but also for those who provide it.   

Treasure the love you receive above all. It will survive long after your gold and good health have vanished. -- Og Mandino

Karen Baluch is a Counselor at Signature Health in Ashtabula, wife, mother of four and ardent believer in the power of positive thought